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Suzanne van Rooyen
on Aug. 13, 2013 :
I should preface this review by saying that I am a huge fan of epic fantasy and that anything Celtic has a particularly special place in my heart, thus I went in already loving the premise, but I had very high expectations.
About two chapters in, I went searching for the publisher because the prose was exquisite and I wanted to know who the editor was. I couldn’t believe this novel was self-published! It is without a doubt the best self-published book I have ever read.
Now more about the prose – the prose captures the atmosphere of this book perfectly. Lia is young, only fifteen, and quite innocent by modern standards. She’s the resident herbalist in her village and the writing reflects her love of nature with phrases like ‘I don’t give a thistle.’ These little gems were sprinkled throughout the novel and I found them delightful and true to character.
The story itself is a take on the classic Hero’s Journey and while I did feel at one point that their quest started to drag, it only lasted about half a chapter before the author threw something new and exciting into the mix. This novel has it all: faeries, shades, dwarfs, unicorns and sentient trees!
The world-building is fantastic, the division between the normal and the fae world reminding me of Gaiman’s Stardust, not in a derivative way but in a familiar, old-friend kind of way. This book definitely took me back to my childhood, to rainy afternoons spent reading with my mom about magical, far away places. The author clearly knows her stuff when it comes to herb lore and this showed through the characters, adding layers of authenticity to the world. The subtle borrowings from Celtic folklore made me smile too.
I did find the pervasive innocence of the characters more in line with what I’ve read in MG than in YA. These characters are neither cynical or jaded, rather refreshing from the usual YA set, but it does make the characters come across a bit young. I’d definitely recommend this book to fans of Janice Hardy’s Shifter series rather than fans of books like The Hunger Games and Graceling.
If I’m going to find anything to gripe about in this story it’s that Lia seemed to have an incredible memory and always managed to recount the perfect bit of lore from her Grandma’s book just in the nick of time. This method of saving the day became a little contrived after a while, but that’s honestly the only thing that took the shine away from a full 5 stars.
Oh and that ending! Really, we have to wait ’til the end of the year for more? This is one sequel I will definitely be reading and I don’t say that very often.
Final consensus, I absolutely adored this book! For fans of traditional fantasy who don’t mind their characters a little naive and their narrative squeaky clean. Arrow in the Mist gets 4.5 inksplats from me.(l
(reviewed long after purchase)